Stage Manager

Carmel’s Forest Theater, built in 1910, sits idle this summer due to Covid-19. Volunteers recently restained the benches.

There’s been drama since 2017 when the city of Carmel and nonprofit Sunset Cultural Center Inc. agreed the nonprofit group should manage the city’s 110-year-old Forest Theater. SCC’s attempt to bring in more revenue and keep costs down clashed with legacy nonprofit performing arts groups whose missions have never been to turn a profit in producing plays, musical acts and showing films in the outdoor theater.

Leaders of the Forest Theater Guild said in December they were getting pushed off the stage. SCC informed them last fall they would get no dates for live performances, only dates for their fundraiser, Films in the Forest. The guild pleaded with city officials to intervene, but before the conflict was resolved, the Covid-19 pandemic obliterated the season entirely. (During the pandemic, SCC sponsored its own outdoor films in the Sunset Center parking lot as a drive-in.)

It now appears SCC is ready to retire from its responsibilities with the theater. Discussions between the organization and city officials began recently, as evidenced by a closed session discussion on July 6 at Carmel City Council. SCC Executive Director Christine Sandin says by email that there have been discussions around pandemic-related issues.

“SCC initiated the concept that it would be helpful to poll our community of arts patrons to assist with drafting a cohesive vision for the Outdoor Forest Theater, separate from the Sunset Center, for future post-pandemic use of the space,” Sandin writes by email.

Carmel City Administrator Chip Rerig says, “Both Sunset Cultural Center and the City Council are considering options under our existing lease for the Forest Theater.”

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